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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Jessica Shepard turned all those post passes into Notre Dame points.
Shepard scored a career-high 39, shooting 17 of 22 to lead the No. 2 Irish over DePaul 91-82 Sunday.
Shepard, a 6-foot-4 junior forward, twice scored 35 points for Nebraska before transferring after last season. Former Irish All-Americans Jewell Loyd and Ruth Riley share the Notre Dame single-game record of 41.
"Coach has really put an emphasis of getting the ball inside to open up our outside game," Shepard said. "Our guards did an amazing job getting the ball inside to me."
Shepard also had 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks for the Irish (10-1).
"Jessica has just a phenomenal game to dominate the inside the way she did," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "That's what we hoped she could do, what we knew she could do, and I think the team did a very good job looking for her."
Shepard had 26 points at halftime as Notre Dame led 41-40. The Blue Demons (7-4) stayed close by hitting seven of 14 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes and limiting Notre Dame junior Arike Ogunbowale to two points on 1-of-9 shooting.
"I couldn't get into the flow but I was going to keep shooting regardless," said Arike Ogunbowale, who finished with 21 points. "I did a better job getting good shots in the second half. Jessica is an amazing post. They couldn't guard her."
DePaul coach Doug Bruno, whose team has lost 10 straight to the Irish dating to a 70-69 victory in 2011, started five guards against the Irish. He hoped his strategy would slow down Ogunbowale, who entered the game with 10 straight double-digit scoring games and averaging 20.7 points to lead all Atlantic Coast Conference scorers.
Shepard's performance did not surprise Bruno.
"We knew they would make a concerted effort to go inside on us — Muffet is a Hall of Fame coach for a reason," Bruno said. "You got your first real good look at Shepard with her back to the basket. Their offense can run to her. It can also run through her. Not many players in Muffet's scheme have been able to do both."
Notre Dame led just 60-58 after three quarters following a 3-pointer by DePaul's Ashton Millender, who led the Blue Demons with 18 points and shot 4 of 8 on 3s.
Amarah Coleman had 17 points, and Chante Stonewall added 16, hitting all four 3-pointers.
As a team, DePaul hit 13 of 36 3-pointers.
"They are always in the game the way they make 3s," McGraw said. "I was disappointed with our defensive lapses, turnovers and careless, careless mistakes."
An 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter gave Notre Dame a cushion. The Irish shot 82 percent (9 of 11) in the quarter and led by 14 with 4:36 to play.
Marina Mabrey had 13 points and Kathryn Westbeld had 10 for the Irish.
DePaul: The Blue Demons, whose only loss in their last four games was to No. 1 Connecticut 103-69 on Dec. 8, managed to stay in the game by hitting their 3-pointers. DePaul led the nation coming into the contest with an average of 13.4 3s per game.
Notre Dame: The Irish, who lost at No. 1 UConn 80-71 on Dec. 3, shot 45.5 percent through the first three quarters.
Already with three players out for the season with ACL injuries — Brianna Turner, Mychal Johnson and Mikayla Wright — Notre Dame sophomore guard Jackie Young sustained a broken nose in practice Friday. Wearing a mask to protect the injury, she started and missed her first four shots in the first quarter, each time adjusting her mask.
Young, who came into the game averaging 14.5 points per game, finished with four points on 1-for-6 shooting, but did have seven rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
Notre Dame finished with 13 blocked shots, led by Young's four and three by Shepard. DePaul had just two.
DePaul's Kelly Campbell and Mabrey renewed a rivalry that goes back to their days playing for high schools in New Jersey. Campbell, a sophomore from Wall, played at Saint John Vianney in Holmdel. Mabrey, a junior who hails from Belmar, played at Manasquan. Mabrey scored 13 points, despite hitting just 2 of 10 shots, and had eight rebounds and a team-high six assists. Campbell had six points, eight rebounds and four assists before fouling out.
DePaul: The Blue Demons are home against IUPUI on Wednesday night.
Notre Dame: The Irish host Marquette on Wednesday.
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